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Research Dives into Impact of Line 5 Shutdown on MI Gas Prices

Gas prices in Michigan are $2.10 on average, the same as the national average. (Adobe Stock)
Gas prices in Michigan are $2.10 on average, the same as the national average. (Adobe Stock)
August 14, 2020

Both sides of the pipeline were shutdown June 25th by court order. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the date was June 19th. (12:48 p.m., August 18, 2020)

LANSING, Mich. -- Warnings that shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline would cause gas prices to go through the ceiling are not coming to fruition, according to a new analysis.

Both legs of the underwater pipeline at the Straits of Mackinac were shutdown June 19 by court order, due to a damaged pipeline support. The west segment of the line was allowed to restart on July 1.

Former Dow Chemical engineer Gary Street researched gas price data and other factors, and determined the shutdowns had little impact on retail gas prices in Michigan.

"Looking at the national price of gasoline and the Michigan price, our gasoline in Michigan is about 3.5 cents less than the national price," said Street. "So, Line 5 being shut down, or partially shut down, has not affected the price of gasoline."

An Enbridge spokesman dismissed the study, saying that while the line is operating at reduced capacity, it's still meeting demand -- which wouldn't impact gas prices.

Enbridge, refineries, industry groups and some analysts warned of gas shortages in the case of a Line 5 shutdown. Street said with the partial shutdown nearing 60 days, the research shows that argument isn't valid.

"The fact is whatever they have done, they're proving to us that we were right all along," said Street. "They don't need all that capacity. In a way, they've really made our argument."

According to an Enbridge fact sheet, a temporary shutdown would have severe consequences for Michigan's economy and result in about 45% less crude oil flowing to refineries in the region.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI